WASHINGTON — Hours after 10 U.S. Navy sailors were released from Iranian detainment, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pointed Wednesday to diplomatic gains made during last summer’s nuclear negotiations as an explanation for the problem’s quick fix.
Pelosi said the situation was resolved in record time and the military personnel were safely returned.
“The diplomacy that was established during the negotiation of the accord helped facilitate that speedy…resolution,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said at a news conference.
The sailors were held Tuesday after at least one of their two vessels experienced mechanical issues and drifted into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf, according to the AP.
The situation developed mere days before Iran is expected to fulfill its nuclear commitment outlined in July’s deal, enabling the U.S. and other involved nations to lift economic sanctions on the country, Secretary of State John Kerry said last week.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Robert Einhorn, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, “Both sides had an interest in resolving this quickly and not making a major international incident out of it.”
“I don’t think the Iranians wanted this incident to interfere with the suspension of economic sanctions,” he said.
In light of the release of the sailors, Pelosi said freeing the remaining five American detainees in Iran — including a Washington Post reporter — is a “high priority” for the U.S. during continued negotiations. The Post reporter’s brother was one of Pelosi’s guests at a reception prior to Tuesday’s State of the Union address, she said.
Just before Pelosi’s news conference, the House approved a Republican-backed bill that could increase congressional influence on the Iran nuclear deal. The bill would prevent the removal of certain individuals and foreign banks from a restricted Treasury Department list until the president proves they are uninvolved in nuclear proliferation or terrorism.
Under the Iran nuclear accord, the U.S. and five other countries agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country limiting its nuclear program.
“Do we trust Iran? The answer is very simply no,” said Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, on the House floor Wednesday. “(This bill) helps us to hold Iran accountable.”
The White House issued a statement Monday threatening a veto and saying the bill would limit the U.S. from fulfilling its side of the agreement. The legislation could result in the “collapse” of a nuclear deal that would prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, the statement said.
Even without passage of the legislation, Iranian leadership is well aware of the U.S. Congress’ skepticism, Einhorn of Brookings said.
“I don’t think the adoption of this bill will tell the Iranians anything they don’t already know,” he said.